Back in the days when I worked in a call centre (okay, I shared an office in a call centre, that I was nothing to do with), the firm arranged a free health check for everyone. Blood, urine, lung capacity; it was akin to attending a football match without having to buy a ticket. Or watch football. Or eat hotdogs.
Anyway, there we were, lined up like ducks, collecting our sample jars – only urine, no soilds thankfully – and going off to do the necessary. Then we returned to the row, piss in hand (and on hand, for some of us) to await our fate.
I thought I was doing pretty well when they took my blood, in what they called a ‘prick test’. I produced quite a bit of it - I've always been a little bleeder; even my mum said so.
Proteins, iron, blood group jackal; everything was fine. The only abnormality was my cholesterol level, at 6.5. This, I was informed, was much higher than the 5.0 norm. To be honest I felt like I'd let them down. And, I'll admit, I was a little freaked.
The conversation then went something like this…
Nurse, kindly: “Have you considered cutting down on smoking?”
Me, defensively: “I don’t smoke – I’ve never smoked.”
Nurse, checking tick list: “Right. Perhaps you can cut down on red meat?”
Me, prickled: “I’m vegetarian.”
I may even have been vegan then.
Nurse, clutching at straws: “Could you maybe take some more exercise?”
Me, wearily: “I go the gym once a week, do yoga once a week and walk the dog over the woods pretty much every week.”
At this point, the burse remembers that my BMI was low. So clearly, not a burger-fiend. There was a pause.
Nurse, with a Rolf Harris talking to sick-pet owner face: “That’s a pity then.”
After talking me down, she suggested I see my GP, just to be on the same side. I jog over there next morning (well, I needed the extra exercise, apparently) and do a blood test at the doc’s. Bad news - my cholesterol has gone up to 7.5. Worse news - most of it is the less than welcome LDL.
We agree that I’ll do a fasting sample and not eat for 12 hours. It wasn't difficult; it's hard to eat when your jaw is fixed with grim determination. Next day, I jog back to the doctor's for my fasting test and...ta-da... it's gone up to 8.4. So now, like Lionel Ritchie, I’m dancing on the ceiling. If dancing is another word for panicking.
A new conversation ensues…
Doc: “Has anyone in your family got heart problems?”
Me: “Not anyone still alive. Our father died of a heart attack at 57.”
Doc: “I don’t suppose you know what his cholesterol level was?”
Me: “Fatal, I presume.”
Then a penny drops.
Me: “So, really, I should eat 24 hours a day?”
The doc tells me it doesn’t quite work like that. Then he tries to ply me with medication, the one with the risk of liver damage. I decline and opt for a mixture of flax and hemp oil. Next check-up, my magic number has reduced by 12%. I decide to keep taking the oil and to eat oily fish.
The good doctor and I then agree to a new appointment - in ten years’ time. We must be getting close to that now - I wonder how I’m doing?